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14 Best College Essay Services for 2024 (40 Services Reviewed)

Research conducted by Emily Kierkegaard , PhD, and expert-reviewed by Kevin Wong, PrepMaven Co-founder

Not sure which college application essay coaching and editing service is the best? We compared the top 40 services, created in-depth reviews for 14 of them, and narrowed it down to the 4 best that will help guide you through the process of writing amazing college application essays.

What is the Best College Essay Service?

  • PrepMaven  – best college application essay service overall
  • College Essay Mentor  – best for individual consultants
  • The College Essay Guy  – best for unlimited essay assistance
  • College Vine  – best of the big platforms

The best of the rest:

Individual essay consultants:

  • College Essay Editor  – small editing team
  • Allison Karpf  – former English teacher helping students
  • Your College Vision  – former journalist with more affordable rates
  • The College Guru  – good on paper but unresponsive
  • Sofia Zapiola – budget-friendly application assistance

Mid-size teams:

  • Lotus Learning  – focus on health sciences

Large platforms:

  • Study Point  – larger platform with mystery editors
  • Ivy Select  – larger platform with mystery editors
  • Empowerly  – larger platform with mystery editors
  • BeMo  – expensive and aggressive with wrong expertise

starting to write college essay

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Best College Application Essay Services in 2024

#1 – prepmaven.

Our Verdict — Best College Essay Assistance Overall Price: $79–349/hour (minimum $510 package) PrepMaven’s one-on-one college essay assistance is the best option overall. Founded by brothers and Princeton grads Greg and Kevin, almost all of PrepMaven’s essay coaches have Ivy-League experience, primarily from Princeton and Harvard. All essay coaches also undergo a thorough training program in PrepMaven’s methods, developed by professional writers with deep understanding of the college admissions process, for helping students to discover the most compelling stories for their essays. Unlike other services, PrepMaven offers college essay assistance at several different price points. At the most accessible rate, students can work with current Ivy-League undergraduates who specialize in writing and have recently aced the college application process. At higher rates, students can work with coaches who are both Ivy-League grads and professional writers (screenwriters, journalists, editors) with many years of experience helping students to craft compelling essays. Interested students can even work directly with founders Greg and Kevin, who have over 15 years of experience helping students through the entire essay-writing process. PrepMaven’s services combine many of the best features of other good options into one, and it’s hard to beat their experience.

Sign up for PrepMaven’s college essay help now

Any student wanting college essay help, at any point in the process, with a range of budgets.

At a glance:

  • Cost: $79–349/hour (minimum $510 package)
  • Writing coach qualifications: Princeton graduates and professional writers (or current Princeton students); all trained

What we like:

  • Ivy League experience —most of their writing coaches are Princeton grads or current students, with some from Harvard and other Ivies
  • Different pricing options to meet different families’ circumstances
  • More flexible and greater capacity to take on new students compared to individual consultants

Sign up for PrepMaven’s college essay help

Princeton University

#2 – College Essay Mentor

Our Verdict — Best of the Individual Consultants Price: unknown but high Some college essay consulting services consist of just one expert. Of these individual essay consultants, Chris Hunt at College Essay Mentor is our favorite. He combines writing experience as a journalist for the Economist and the Wall Street Journal with personal experience as a graduate of Dartmouth. However, he only works with a small number of students each year, and students need to apply to work with him — he only accepts students with top grades and test scores who are already strong applicants for top schools. Chris offers the option for one-time written feedback, but this only gives big-picture generalizations. (And written-only feedback is always limited.) In order for help with the essay process, students need to purchase a complete essay package.

Students with top grades and test scores who want to work with a one-person business, who have a sizable budget, and who are ready to get started early.

  • Cost: $210 for a one-time written essay feedback (big picture only), then $110 per draft feedback; pricing for essay process packages unknown
  • Essay coach qualifications: professional journalist, Dartmouth grad
  • Professional writing experience as a journalist
  • Extensive experience working with college applicants
  • Partners with Debra Felix, former Director of Admissions at Columbia, for full application review

What we don’t like:

  • One-on-one work is limited to very high-achieving students, who need to apply with a resume : “I limit my one-on-one work to students who I believe will be strong applicants to elite universities. As a rule, this means having high grades in challenging classes, a test score of ACT 34+ or SAT 1500+, and substantial activities outside of the classroom.”
  • Works with a limited number of students (60 per year), so often no availability
  • All-or-nothing packages don’t allow students to work with Chris for just a few hours or for part of the essay-writing process
  • Secretive about pricing (he’ll only give pricing details once he’s reviewed the student’s resume and agreed to work with them), but we expect the minimum cost of working one-on-one to be several thousand dollars

#3 – The College Essay Guy

Our Verdict — Best for Unlimited Essay Assistance Price: $4900 for application to 3 schools, $8050 for application for 10 schools We’re fans of Ethan Sawyer, the original “college essay guy”— his book, College Essay Essentials , is a great guide to the essay-writing process. Ethan doesn’t work directly with many students these days, but he now has a team of consultants who help students follow his principles. Their assistance is really all-or-nothing — they prefer to work with students from the very beginning of the process, and their minimum package is $4900, which includes assistance with essays for three schools. If students are applying to ten schools (a more realistic number for students aiming at competitive colleges), the fee is a hefty $7400.

Students who want unlimited help through the entire process, who have a sizable budget.

  • Cost: $4900 (supplemental essays for 3 schools) – $7400 (supplemental essays for 10 schools)
  • Essay coach qualifications: mix of Ivy grads and former teachers, some writers/screenwriters; all trained
  • Great free resources about the essay-writing process
  • Their Matchlighters Scholars Program gives back to the community by providing admissions consulting for select qualifying students
  • All-or-nothing packages have a high minimum fee and don’t work for students who want just a few hours of feedback or help with just part of the process

#4 – College Vine

Our Verdict — Best of the Big Platforms Price: $140–180/hour There are plenty of large platforms with large stables of part-time tutors and coaches available to work with students. Of these big platforms, we think CollegeVine has the best offerings. Compared to other large companies, CollegeVine provides more information about their tutors, and students can pick individual tutors to work with from their roster. However, this model is really just a way of finding individual tutors to hire. Tutors don’t receive any training and don’t share a common approach, so it’s a mixed bag. Their rates are fairly high for part-time tutors who don’t have specific expertise and training in college essay consulting. Because CollegeVine is really just a marketplace where individual tutors can find students, the quality and price will vary widely.

Students who want to work with a big company, or those who want a quick session or two to go over their essays.

  • Cost: Typically $140–180/hour
  • Essay coach qualifications: no specific qualifications, but a few are Ivy League graduates
  • Possible to select individual editors to work with from their roster.
  • Easy to schedule ad-hoc sessions with a tutor through the website.
  • No training or common approach for tutors
  • Editors are part-time , with no option to work with full-time college admissions experts
  • Relatively expensive for this level of expertise

College Essay Editing Alternatives (that Didn’t Make the Cut)

Individual essay consultants, #5 – college essay editor.

Our Verdict — Small Editing Team Price: Roughly $5,950 for applications to 10 schools College Essay Editor comprises two graduates of Stanford. This means that they have personal experience applying to highly competitive schools. One member of the team also has a college counseling certification, which is a good background for college essays. Based on their website, they appear to focus on the editing and proofreading phase of the essay-writing process. This can be helpful to students, but we recommend working with a service who can help students to uncover their values and brainstorm really great material that allows them to really shine—and if this doesn’t happen at the beginning of the process, it’s much harder to add in later on.

  • Cost: $195/1000 words for proofreading, $495/1000 words for 3 rounds of editing and proofreading, or $595/1000 words for unlimited rounds of editing and proofreading; for the purposes of comparison, complete applications to 10 competitive colleges would be around 9,650 words, or $5950.
  • Writing coach qualifications: Stanford graduates, one of whom has college counseling certification
  • Editors are graduates of Stanford University , and one is a member of NACAC, the national association of college counselors
  • They focus on editing and proofreading only , not on the crucial earlier steps of brainstorming and strategy
  • Small team with very limited availability
  • All asynchronous editing so you won’t be able to cultivate a real relationship with your essay coach.

#6 – Allison Karpf

Our Verdict — Former English Teacher Helping Students Price: $385/hour or $3850 package for application to one school Another option for students looking to hire an individual consultant is Allison Karpf. Allison is a former high school English teacher and a graduate of UC Berkeley who also holds a Masters of Education from Stanford. Her rates are definitely on the higher side, especially for someone who doesn’t have a professional writing background, but she does have extensive experience working with students to craft their essays.

  • Cost:  $385/hour or $3850 unlimited counseling (includes supplemental essays for one college)
  • Essay coach qualifications: former high school English teacher; Berkeley grad, Stanford MEd
  • Lots of experience helping students improve their college essays
  • Very quick to respond to client requests
  • No professional writing experience or Ivy-Plus undergraduate experience
  • High rates relative to other options
  • Limited availability , since she works alone

#7 – Your College Vision

Our Verdict: Former Journalist with More Affordable Rates Price: $180/hour, or packages starting from $3500 Laurie Lande is another individual consultant who helps students through the essay-writing process. She comes recommended by other consultants like Chris from College Essay Mentor . Laurie did not herself attend a highly competitive school, so she doesn’t have that personal experience of going through the selective admissions process, but she does have a professional writing background as a journalist for the Wall Street Journal in Hong Kong.

  • Cost: $180/hour or packages starting at $3500
  • Essay coach qualifications: journalism background
  • Affordable pricing , relative to other options
  • Not a graduate of a highly selective school

#8 – The College Guru

Our Verdict — Good on Paper but Unresponsive Price: unknown Yet another individual essay consultant is Geanine Thompson from The College Guru. Geanine attended Dartmouth as an undergraduate and also holds an MBA from Duke. She also has a professional writing background as an assistant book editor at Berkley Publishing Group. Like Greg and Kevin at PrepMaven , she combines experience in the business world and at Wall Street firms with experience in education.

  • Cost: unknown
  • Essay coach qualifications: former assistant book editor; Dartmouth grad, Duke MBA
  • Dartmouth graduate and former book editor
  • Not responsive to emails and client requests

#9 – Sofia Zapiola

Our Verdict — A budget-friendly, personal essay editor. Price: $80/hour Yet another individual essay consultant is Sofia Zapiola, who offers a mix of essay editing and college application counseling services.

  • Cost: $80/hour
  • Essay coach qualifications: M.A. from Harvard; certificate in College Counseling from UC San Diego.
  • Individual approach, budget-friendly rates, commitment to working within families’ budgets.
  • Very few testimonials, so it’s difficult to evaluate how effective she is.

student writing college essay on laptop

Mid-size Teams

#10 – lotus learning.

Our Verdict — Expensive for Tutor Background Price: $165/hour Founded by a Harvard grad who is a former teacher and veteran of the publishing industry, Lotus learning offers college essay help in the Boston area. They have a small team of tutors, mostly recent grads from good but not Ivy-Plus colleges, and mostly with focus in health sciences.

  • Cost: $165/hour (minimum 8 hours)
  • Essay coach qualifications: tutors are recent grads, but not Ivy-Plus schools
  • Reasonable pricing with flexible packages
  • Essay editors aren’t graduates of Ivy-Plus schools and don’t have professional writing experience

Large platforms

#11 – study point.

Our Verdict — Larger Platform with Mystery Editors Price: Rates Between $60 and $120/hr Study Point is a larger essay editing service. They claim to have several decades of experience helping students to craft their college essays, but they do not give information about who their essay coaches are and what qualifications they might have.

  • Cost: $60-120/hr, depending on tutor experience
  • Essay coach qualifications: unknown
  • Larger company with several decades of experience
  • Unclear who the essay coaches are
  • Lack of statistics about their results

#12 – Ivy Select

Our Verdict — Larger Platform with Mystery Editors Price: unknown Ivy Select makes a lot of big promises on their website about having the best college essay consultants in the business, but they offer no information on who these consultants are, or on their backgrounds. They also brag that each consultant “only” works 20 students in one application cycle, but in our experience, that’s quite high.

  • Long list of impressive (but anonymous) testimonials
  • Only work with “top students”
  • No information on their website about who the editors are
  • Each essay coach works with up to 20 students at one time

#13 – Empowerly

Our Verdict — Larger Platform with Mystery Editors Price: High, from $6000/year Empowerly has over 60 college counselors who each work with an average of 5 students per year, in order to have more time to devote to each student. Their counselors come from “different educational backgrounds,” and while they do not provide specific biographical details we can assume that most of their essay coaches did not attend highly selective schools.

  • Cost: typically from $6000/year
  • Essay coach qualifications: college counselors
  • Counselors work with just a few students per year
  • You have to upgrade to “Empowerly Elite” to guarantee a counselor with a more selective educational background
  • No professional writing experience

#14 – Prepory

Our Verdict — Expensive but with Good Expertise Price: $325/hr Prepory is a college application and career counseling service that offers a comprehensive program for college applications at any stage of the process (including as early as 9th grade). They make a lot of impressive claims about the expertise of their coaches, but it’s quite difficult to actual find much information about their essay coach qualifications.

  • Cost: $325/hr
  • They have a comprehensive college application program that begins as early as 9th grade.
  • Limited information about essay coaches
  • High prices

Top 40 College Essay Services Considered

  • College Essay Editor
  • The College Essay Guy
  • College Vine
  • College Essay Mentor
  • Study Point
  • Allison Karpf
  • The College Guru
  • Lotus Learning
  • Summit Prep
  • Sofia Zapiola
  • Ivy Global / New Summits
  • College Essay Solutions
  • Your College Vision
  • Essay Edge*
  • ServicEscape*
  • PapersForge*
  • QuickWriter*
  • JustEditMyEssay*
  • JustDoMyEsssay*
  • ExpertWriting*
  • SpeedyPaper*
  • GradeMiners*

* A number of services will edit essays directly for students, or even write portions of the essay for students. We do not condone this. Admissions officers can tell when essays have been written or edited by adults and this can have severe consequences. We have excluded these services from our reviews.

student writing college essay

Why are college application essays important?

Can a great college essay alone get you into Harvard?

No. You’ll need your grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities (as well as letters of recommendation and interview) to be outstanding.

But can a mediocre essay be the reason you didn’t get into Harvard?

Yes. There are thousands of amazingly-qualified students who graduate from high school each year. Great grades and test scores might be a prerequisite for admission to a competitive college, but they alone aren’t enough.

Harvard University

College essays are a key component of a student’s application . When done well, they transform a collection of numbers—GPA, class rank, SAT or ACT scores , number of AP classes taken, AP scores—into a glimpse of a real, individual person.

Essays do many things. Good college essays can highlight extracurricular achievements which otherwise would be overlooked in a sterile list. Strong essays often indicate the student’s future plans —how they plan to leave a mark on their college campus and on the world. They can shine a light on unique challenges that a student may have had to face on their journey.

College admissions officers only have a few minutes to spend on each application. College essays need to be original, interesting, and memorable . They need to grab the attention of the admissions officer and persuade them that this is the student out of hundreds or thousands of other similarly-qualified applicants who should be admitted.

College admissions essays are usually unlike any other kind of writing that students have done before. They’re a combination of memoir and marketing pitch, and they need to be creative but also highly strategic. That’s a tough assignment!

What’s more, students are left to figure this assignment out on their own. A thoughtful and generous high school English teacher may provide guidance or offer to read essays and give feedback, but these teachers are responsible for many students, and they’re (usually) not experts in admissions strategies.

There’s another reason college essays are especially important from 2024 on. After the recent Supreme Court decision, the application essay has become one of the main ways that you can communicate how your racial identity has affected your life.

In fact, the New York Times published an article about how important it can be for students to discuss race in their college application essays!

Princeton University

Why work with a college essay service?

You may want to consider a college essay service if:

  • You have no idea where to start in order to write your college application essays
  • You feel overwhelmed by all of the different ideas you have and don’t know what would be the most strategic for college admissions—and what topics to definitely avoid for college essays
  • You don’t know how to craft a compelling stor y
  • You’re not sure how to edit and refine what you’ve written
  • You have a hard time keeping yourself on track and want an external structure to hold you accountable
  • You’re tired of conflict between students and parents about college essays
  • You’re aiming at a competitive college (not just the Ivy League!) and know that you need your essays to be outstanding
  • Your grades, test scores, and extracurriculars aren’t exceptional, so you need your essay to make your essay stand out from the pack
  • You’re unfamiliar with the US college admissions process (a common situation for international students and first-generation families in the US)

Any of these are strong reasons to consider working with a college essay service!

It’s also worth remembering that a lot of the free advice on college’s website isn’t always very clear. For example, NYU’s admissions Senior Assistant Director of Admissions says that “There is no right or wrong way to answer as long as your answer is genuine to you.”

While that’s true, that doesn’t offer much guidance on how to actually write the essay!

Though many college applicants might not mention it, more and more students are using professional college application consultants. Research at the University of Chicago has shown that over a quarter of high-achieving seniors employed private specialists to help with the college application process.

In fact, according to NPR , some companies are even offering college admissions counseling to their top employees as an incentive–that’s just how important professional help can be in the current landscape of college admissions.

It’s important to note that a good college essay service will not write your college application essays for you . This is unethical and illegal. That’s not just coming from us: take it from a school like Princeton, whose website insists on the importance of writing your own application essays.

A good college essay service will guide you through each step of the process , teaching you how to self-reflect and write well while sharing insider insight about admissions strategy .

Yale University

What makes a good college essay service?

We strongly believe that students need to write their own college essays , and we do not condone plagiarism or “buying” a college essay.

However, writing college application essays requires a completely new set of skills that is rarely taught in high school!

Writing a personal essay is much more creative than simply writing a good paper for English class. It requires a compelling narrative and a great deal of writing craft . A good essay service will teach how to do this kind of writing.

There are many college essay services that will provide only written feedback to students, usually in the form of comments added to an essay draft. (Remember, it’s important that students write their own essays, so avoid any college essay service that will make edits directly to an essay document .)

Written comments can be an effective component of good essay coaching. However, writing college essays is a deeply personal process , and it’s incredibly difficult to guide a student through the process of self-reflection, brainstorming, and planning purely through written comments.

In addition, a great college essay coach will teach students how to do this entire process of brainstorming, planning, outlining, writing, and revising . It’s difficult to learn why an essay coach is advising certain changes through written comments alone.

For these reasons, look for a college essay service with live, one-on-one services , not just written feedback. These days, it’s easy to work with the best college essay consultants in the country over Zoom!

college essay coaching service online

Students need to reflect on their goals, their passions, and what drives them to be the person they are. This requires a great deal of self-awareness and self-analysis . An experienced college essay coach can help draw these ideas out of students through tested introspection techniques and brainstorming exercises .

On top of all of that, students need to be cognizant of which traits and accomplishments will be most appealing to colleges , and which stories will be cliche and boring. Personal statements and supplementary essays need to fit together to tell a cohesive story, and they need to work together with the rest of the student’s application (extracurriculars, grades, and other accomplishments).

In other words, there’s a great deal of strategy here! An experienced college essay service can help students decide how to present themselves in the best possible light .

Furthermore, most students don’t know how to edit effectively . A really top-notch college essay service will also teach students how to edit their own writing —how to reorder sections for better flow, cut unnecessary words to meet a word count, eliminate passive verbs, and make their writing vivid and exciting. Our students are routinely amazed by how transformative this step can be, and how much they learn by doing it together with the essay coach.

Finally, the best college essay services can also help students to make a writing plan and keep them on track , so that parents don’t have to be involved directly.

Ready to work on your college essays? Schedule a free 15- to 30-minute consultation with Jessica or one of our founders.

Best overall: PrepMaven’s tutors offer the highest quality at the best price. With three tiers of tutors, they make it easy to work with an Ivy League undergraduate for as little as $79/hr. Or, families can work with education professionals or Ivy League graduates from $150/hr. PrepMaven’s track record means that you can be sure every hour is being spent productively, so that you can expect real results from the work.

Best for individual consultants: College Essay Mentor. In theory, College Essay Mentor would offer an unparalleled level of individual attention and guidance: his website boasts of some very impressive results. You might find it hard to actually schedule with him, however, since he’s very selective about his clients.

Best for unlimited essay assistance: The College Essay Guy might not offer that personalized attention you get from live, face to face essay coaching, but they do offer unlimited essay editing for up to 10 schools (if you’re comfortable paying a hefty package price).

Best of the big platforms: College Vine will always be a bit of a gamble. Because it’s a tutor marketplace, your results (and costs) will really depend on how lucky you get with your consultant. From our research, however, many of their essay coaches look to have solid track records.

Ready to work on college essays with one of our experienced writing coaches? Schedule a free test prep consultation with Jessica (Director of Tutoring) or one of our founders to see what would be the best fit for your family.

It’s always best to start early and not wait until the last minute to write your college essays! Remember that essays can be used to earn scholarships as well as college admission, so a few months of writing now can pay off with up to $300,000 in tuition saved later. 

We work with students at all stages of the writing process, from I-have-no-idea-what-to-write to final edits. To start working with an Ivy-League writing coach today, set up a quick free consultation with our team.

Schedule a free college essay consultation

Ivy League schools

Top College Essay Posts

  • 14 Best College Essay Services for 2023 (40 Services Reviewed)
  • Qualities of a Successful College Essay
  • 11 College Essays That Worked
  • How to Answer the UC Personal Insight Questions
  • How Colleges Read your College Applications (A 4-Step Process)
  • How to Write the Princeton Supplemental Essays
  • The Diamond Strategy: How We Help Students Write College Essays that Get Them Into Princeton (And Other Ivy League Schools)
  • What is the College Essay? Your Complete Guide for 202 4
  • College Essay Brainstorming: Where to Start
  • How to Write the Harvard Supplemental Essays
  • How to Format Your College Essay

college entrance essay writer

Emily graduated  summa cum laude  from Princeton University and holds an MA from the University of Notre Dame. She was a National Merit Scholar and has won numerous academic prizes and fellowships. A veteran of the publishing industry, she has helped professors at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton revise their books and articles. Over the last decade, Emily has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay. 

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How to Write a College Application Essay

Find the right college for you..

Your essay reveals something important about you that your grades and test scores can't─your personality. It can give admissions officers a sense of who you are and showcase your writing ability. Here are some things that admissions officers look for in a personal essay for college.

1. Open Strong.

Knowing how to start a college essay can create a strong opening paragraph that immediately captures the reader’s interest. You want to make the admissions officer reading your essay curious about what you say next.

2. Show You Can Write.

Colleges want to see that you have a command of the basics of good writing, which is a key component of success in college.

3. Answer the Prompt.

Admissions officers also want to see that the student can give a direct answer while sticking to a comprehensive narrative. When writing college essays, consider the point you want to make and develop a fleshed-out response that fits the prompt. Avoid force-fitting prewritten pieces. Approach every personal essay prompt as if it's your first.

4. Stick to Your Style.

Writing college essays isn't about using flowery or verbose prose. Avoid leaning too heavily on the thesaurus to sound impressive. Choose a natural writing style that’s appropriate for the subject matter.

Also, avoid stressing about trying to write what you think colleges want to see. Learning how to draft a good essay for college is about showcasing who you are. Stay true to your voice. Keep in mind that authenticity is more important than anything else.

5. Proofread.

Correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling are essential. Proofread several times after you've finished. Then ask a teacher, parent, or college English major to give it a quick read as well.

6. Keep Track of Length.

Finally, admissions officers value succinctness. Remember to pay attention to the recommended essay length or word count.

Bonus Tips and College Essay Writing Help

For more on how to write a college essay, check out these Tips for Writing Your College Admissions Essay .

What is the college application essay?

A personal essay for college applications is an opportunity for admission admissions panels to get more insight into who you are and what you have to offer. It's often the most personal component of the application, going beyond grades and standardized test scores. Essays usually have open-ended prompts, allowing you to flex your writing skills and make a personal statement.

Does my college application essay really matter?

Learning how to write a successful essay for college is crucial. This essay's exact weight on your chances of acceptance varies from one school to the next. But it's an element of your application that all admissions teams consider. Your essay could be the thing that gets you off a waiting list or gives you a competitive edge over other applicants.

What are colleges looking for in my application essay?

Knowing what to include in a college essay is half the battle. Admissions teams look for many things, but the most influential are authenticity, writing ability, character details, and positive traits. The purpose of the essay is to shed light on your background and gain perspective on your real-world experiences.

When should I start writing my college essay?

Because you'll want to tailor each application to each school, expect to write multiple personal essays. Advisers typically recommend starting these pieces during the summer before your senior year of high school. This will give you ample time to concentrate on writing a college essay before you're hit with schoolwork.

What can I do to write an effective college essay if I'm not a strong writer?

Good writing skills matter, but the best college essay is about the quality of your response. Authentic stories in a natural voice have impact. The story you want to tell about yourself will work better for you if it’s told in language that’s not overly sophisticated. Work with a writing coach for help with the academic aspects. Make responding with substance a priority.

How can I write my college essay if I have no monumental experiences?

You don't need life-changing moments to impress an admissions panel. Think about your personal experiences. Describe moments that left a lasting impact. The important thing is to have a fleshed-out narrative that provides insight into your life and way of thinking. Some of the best essays revolve around meaningful moments rather than flashy ones.

How should I start brainstorming topics for my college essay?

Most colleges provide open-ended prompts. Using the topic as inspiration, think about critical milestones or essential lessons you learned during your academic career. Tell stories about real-life experiences that have shaped the person you are. Write them down to brainstorm ideas. Choose stories that highlight your best traits.

What is a good list of essay topics to start with? What essay topics should I avoid?

Good topics when writing college essays include personal achievements, meaningful lessons, life-changing challenges, and situations that fostered personal growth. It's best to avoid anything too intimate or controversial. You want to open up, but it's not a good idea to go overboard or alienate members of the admissions panel.

What format should I use for my college essay?

Read the prompt and essay instructions thoroughly to learn how to start off a college essay. Some colleges provide guidance about formatting. If not, the best course of action is to stick with a college standard like the MLA format.

How long should my essay be?

The average length of a personal essay for college is 400─600 words. Always read the prompt. Follow the instructions provided in the application.

Who should I ask to review my college essay?

Turn to your school counselor for review. They understand what college admissions panels are looking for, and they can provide valuable insight into your piece's quality. You can also reach out to English teachers and other educators for proofreading.

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How to Write a Great College Essay Introduction | Examples

Published on October 4, 2021 by Meredith Testa . Revised on August 14, 2023 by Kirsten Courault.

Admissions officers read thousands of essays each application season, and they may devote as little as five minutes to reviewing a student’s entire application. That means it’s critical to have a well-structured essay with a compelling introduction. As you write and revise your essay , look for opportunities to make your introduction more engaging.

There’s one golden rule for a great introduction: don’t give too much away . Your reader shouldn’t be able to guess the entire trajectory of the essay after reading the first sentence. A striking or unexpected opening captures the reader’s attention, raises questions, and makes them want to keep reading to the end .

Table of contents

Start with a surprise, start with a vivid, specific image, avoid clichés, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about college application essays.

A great introduction often has an element of mystery. Consider the following opening statement.

This opener is unexpected, even bizarre—what could this student be getting at? How can you be bad at breathing?

The student goes on to describe her experience with asthma and how it has affected her life. It’s not a strange topic, but the introduction is certainly intriguing. This sentence keeps the admissions officer reading, giving the student more of an opportunity to keep their attention and make her point.

In a sea of essays with standard openings such as “One life-changing experience for me was …” or “I overcame an obstacle when …,” this introduction stands out. The student could have used either of those more generic introductions, but neither would have been as successful.

This type of introduction is a true “hook”—it’s highly attention-grabbing, and the reader has to keep reading to understand.

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If your topic doesn’t lend itself to such a surprising opener, you can also start with a vivid, specific description.

Many essays focus on a particular experience, and describing one moment from that experience can draw the reader in. You could focus on small details of what you could see and feel, or drop the reader right into the middle of the story with dialogue or action.

Some students choose to write more broadly about themselves and use some sort of object or metaphor as the focus. If that’s the type of essay you’d like to write, you can describe that object in vivid detail, encouraging the reader to imagine it.

Cliché essay introductions express ideas that are stereotypical or generally thought of as conventional wisdom. Ideas like “My family made me who I am today” or “I accomplished my goals through hard work and determination” may genuinely reflect your life experience, but they aren’t unique or particularly insightful.

Unoriginal essay introductions are easily forgotten and don’t demonstrate a high level of creative thinking. A college essay is intended to give insight into the personality and background of an applicant, so a standard, one-size-fits-all introduction may lead admissions officers to think they are dealing with a standard, unremarkable applicant.

Quotes can often fall into the category of cliché essay openers. There are some circumstances in which using a quote might make sense—for example, you could quote an important piece of advice or insight from someone important in your life. But for most essays, quotes aren’t necessary, and they may make your essay seem uninspired.

If you want to know more about academic writing , effective communication , or parts of speech , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

Academic writing

  • Writing process
  • Transition words
  • Passive voice
  • Paraphrasing

 Communication

  • How to end an email
  • Ms, mrs, miss
  • How to start an email
  • I hope this email finds you well
  • Hope you are doing well

 Parts of speech

  • Personal pronouns
  • Conjunctions

The introduction of your college essay is the first thing admissions officers will read and therefore your most important opportunity to stand out. An excellent introduction will keep admissions officers reading, allowing you to tell them what you want them to know.

The key to a strong college essay introduction is not to give too much away. Try to start with a surprising statement or image that raises questions and compels the reader to find out more.

Cliché openers in a college essay introduction are usually general and applicable to many students and situations. Most successful introductions are specific: they only work for the unique essay that follows.

In most cases, quoting other people isn’t a good way to start your college essay . Admissions officers want to hear your thoughts about yourself, and quotes often don’t achieve that. Unless a quote truly adds something important to your essay that it otherwise wouldn’t have, you probably shouldn’t include it.

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College admissions

Course: college admissions   >   unit 4.

  • Writing a strong college admissions essay
  • Avoiding common admissions essay mistakes
  • Brainstorming tips for your college essay
  • How formal should the tone of your college essay be?
  • Taking your college essay to the next level
  • Sample essay 1 with admissions feedback
  • Sample essay 2 with admissions feedback
  • Student story: Admissions essay about a formative experience
  • Student story: Admissions essay about personal identity
  • Student story: Admissions essay about community impact
  • Student story: Admissions essay about a past mistake
  • Student story: Admissions essay about a meaningful poem

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How to Write a Personal Essay for Your College Application

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What does it take to land in the “accept” (instead of “reject”) pile?

How can you write an essay that helps advance you in the eyes of the admissions officers and makes a real impression? Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Start early.  Do not leave it until the last minute. Give yourself time when you don’t have other homework or extracurriculars hanging over your head to work on the essay.
  • Keep the focus narrow.  Your essay does not have to cover a massive, earth-shattering event. Some people in their teens haven’t experienced a major life event. Some people have. Either way, it’s okay.
  • Be yourself.  Whether writing about a painful experience or a more simple experience, use the narrative to be vulnerable and honest about who you are. Use words you would normally use. Trust your voice and the fact that your story is interesting enough in that no one else has lived it.
  • Be creative.  “Show, don’t tell,” and that applies here — to an extent. The best essays typically do both. You can help your reader see and feel what you are describing by using some figurative language throughout your piece.
  • Make a point. As you finish your final body paragraphs ask yourself “So what?” This will help you hone in on how to end your essay in a way that elevates it into a story about an insight or discovery you made about yourself, rather than just being about an experience you had.

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We’ve all heard about the dreaded “college essay,” the bane of every high school senior’s existence. This daunting element of the college application is something that can create angst for even the most accomplished students.

  • AA Amy Allen is a writer, educator, and lifelong learner. Her freelance writing business,  All of the Write Words , focuses on providing high school students with one-on-one feedback to guide them through the college application process and with crafting a thoughtful personal essay. A dedicated poet, Amy’s work has also been published in several journals including  Pine Row Press ,  Months to Years,  and  Atlanta Review .

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College Essays

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If you grow up to be a professional writer, everything you write will first go through an editor before being published. This is because the process of writing is really a process of re-writing —of rethinking and reexamining your work, usually with the help of someone else. So what does this mean for your student writing? And in particular, what does it mean for very important, but nonprofessional writing like your college essay? Should you ask your parents to look at your essay? Pay for an essay service?

If you are wondering what kind of help you can, and should, get with your personal statement, you've come to the right place! In this article, I'll talk about what kind of writing help is useful, ethical, and even expected for your college admission essay . I'll also point out who would make a good editor, what the differences between editing and proofreading are, what to expect from a good editor, and how to spot and stay away from a bad one.

Table of Contents

What Kind of Help for Your Essay Can You Get?

What's Good Editing?

What should an editor do for you, what kind of editing should you avoid, proofreading, what's good proofreading, what kind of proofreading should you avoid.

What Do Colleges Think Of You Getting Help With Your Essay?

Who Can/Should Help You?

Advice for editors.

Should You Pay Money For Essay Editing?

The Bottom Line

What's next, what kind of help with your essay can you get.

Rather than talking in general terms about "help," let's first clarify the two different ways that someone else can improve your writing . There is editing, which is the more intensive kind of assistance that you can use throughout the whole process. And then there's proofreading, which is the last step of really polishing your final product.

Let me go into some more detail about editing and proofreading, and then explain how good editors and proofreaders can help you."

Editing is helping the author (in this case, you) go from a rough draft to a finished work . Editing is the process of asking questions about what you're saying, how you're saying it, and how you're organizing your ideas. But not all editing is good editing . In fact, it's very easy for an editor to cross the line from supportive to overbearing and over-involved.

Ability to clarify assignments. A good editor is usually a good writer, and certainly has to be a good reader. For example, in this case, a good editor should make sure you understand the actual essay prompt you're supposed to be answering.

Open-endedness. Good editing is all about asking questions about your ideas and work, but without providing answers. It's about letting you stick to your story and message, and doesn't alter your point of view.

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Think of an editor as a great travel guide. It can show you the many different places your trip could take you. It should explain any parts of the trip that could derail your trip or confuse the traveler. But it never dictates your path, never forces you to go somewhere you don't want to go, and never ignores your interests so that the trip no longer seems like it's your own. So what should good editors do?

Help Brainstorm Topics

Sometimes it's easier to bounce thoughts off of someone else. This doesn't mean that your editor gets to come up with ideas, but they can certainly respond to the various topic options you've come up with. This way, you're less likely to write about the most boring of your ideas, or to write about something that isn't actually important to you.

If you're wondering how to come up with options for your editor to consider, check out our guide to brainstorming topics for your college essay .

Help Revise Your Drafts

Here, your editor can't upset the delicate balance of not intervening too much or too little. It's tricky, but a great way to think about it is to remember: editing is about asking questions, not giving answers .

Revision questions should point out:

  • Places where more detail or more description would help the reader connect with your essay
  • Places where structure and logic don't flow, losing the reader's attention
  • Places where there aren't transitions between paragraphs, confusing the reader
  • Moments where your narrative or the arguments you're making are unclear

But pointing to potential problems is not the same as actually rewriting—editors let authors fix the problems themselves.

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Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will help you craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We'll learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay that you'll proudly submit to your top choice colleges.

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Craft Your Perfect College Essay

Bad editing is usually very heavy-handed editing. Instead of helping you find your best voice and ideas, a bad editor changes your writing into their own vision.

You may be dealing with a bad editor if they:

  • Add material (examples, descriptions) that doesn't come from you
  • Use a thesaurus to make your college essay sound "more mature"
  • Add meaning or insight to the essay that doesn't come from you
  • Tell you what to say and how to say it
  • Write sentences, phrases, and paragraphs for you
  • Change your voice in the essay so it no longer sounds like it was written by a teenager

Colleges can tell the difference between a 17-year-old's writing and a 50-year-old's writing. Not only that, they have access to your SAT or ACT Writing section, so they can compare your essay to something else you wrote. Writing that's a little more polished is great and expected. But a totally different voice and style will raise questions.

Where's the Line Between Helpful Editing and Unethical Over-Editing?

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether your college essay editor is doing the right thing. Here are some guidelines for staying on the ethical side of the line.

  • An editor should say that the opening paragraph is kind of boring, and explain what exactly is making it drag. But it's overstepping for an editor to tell you exactly how to change it.
  • An editor should point out where your prose is unclear or vague. But it's completely inappropriate for the editor to rewrite that section of your essay.
  • An editor should let you know that a section is light on detail or description. But giving you similes and metaphors to beef up that description is a no-go.

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Proofreading (also called copy-editing) is checking for errors in the last draft of a written work. It happens at the end of the process and is meant as the final polishing touch. Proofreading is meticulous and detail-oriented, focusing on small corrections. It sands off all the surface rough spots that could alienate the reader.

Because proofreading is usually concerned with making fixes on the word or sentence level, this is the only process where someone else can actually add to or take away things from your essay . This is because what they are adding or taking away tends to be one or two misplaced letters.

Laser focus. Proofreading is all about the tiny details, so the ability to really concentrate on finding small slip-ups is a must.

Excellent grammar and spelling skills. Proofreaders need to dot every "i" and cross every "t." Good proofreaders should correct spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar. They should put foreign words in italics and surround quotations with quotation marks. They should check that you used the correct college's name, and that you adhered to any formatting requirements (name and date at the top of the page, uniform font and size, uniform spacing).

Limited interference. A proofreader needs to make sure that you followed any word limits. But if cuts need to be made to shorten the essay, that's your job and not the proofreader's.

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A bad proofreader either tries to turn into an editor, or just lacks the skills and knowledge necessary to do the job.

Some signs that you're working with a bad proofreader are:

  • If they suggest making major changes to the final draft of your essay. Proofreading happens when editing is already finished.
  • If they aren't particularly good at spelling, or don't know grammar, or aren't detail-oriented enough to find someone else's small mistakes.
  • If they start swapping out your words for fancier-sounding synonyms, or changing the voice and sound of your essay in other ways. A proofreader is there to check for errors, not to take the 17-year-old out of your writing.

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What Do Colleges Think of Your Getting Help With Your Essay?

Admissions officers agree: light editing and proofreading are good—even required ! But they also want to make sure you're the one doing the work on your essay. They want essays with stories, voice, and themes that come from you. They want to see work that reflects your actual writing ability, and that focuses on what you find important.

On the Importance of Editing

Get feedback. Have a fresh pair of eyes give you some feedback. Don't allow someone else to rewrite your essay, but do take advantage of others' edits and opinions when they seem helpful. ( Bates College )

Read your essay aloud to someone. Reading the essay out loud offers a chance to hear how your essay sounds outside your head. This exercise reveals flaws in the essay's flow, highlights grammatical errors and helps you ensure that you are communicating the exact message you intended. ( Dickinson College )

On the Value of Proofreading

Share your essays with at least one or two people who know you well—such as a parent, teacher, counselor, or friend—and ask for feedback. Remember that you ultimately have control over your essays, and your essays should retain your own voice, but others may be able to catch mistakes that you missed and help suggest areas to cut if you are over the word limit. ( Yale University )

Proofread and then ask someone else to proofread for you. Although we want substance, we also want to be able to see that you can write a paper for our professors and avoid careless mistakes that would drive them crazy. ( Oberlin College )

On Watching Out for Too Much Outside Influence

Limit the number of people who review your essay. Too much input usually means your voice is lost in the writing style. ( Carleton College )

Ask for input (but not too much). Your parents, friends, guidance counselors, coaches, and teachers are great people to bounce ideas off of for your essay. They know how unique and spectacular you are, and they can help you decide how to articulate it. Keep in mind, however, that a 45-year-old lawyer writes quite differently from an 18-year-old student, so if your dad ends up writing the bulk of your essay, we're probably going to notice. ( Vanderbilt University )

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Now let's talk about some potential people to approach for your college essay editing and proofreading needs. It's best to start close to home and slowly expand outward. Not only are your family and friends more invested in your success than strangers, but they also have a better handle on your interests and personality. This knowledge is key for judging whether your essay is expressing your true self.

Parents or Close Relatives

Your family may be full of potentially excellent editors! Parents are deeply committed to your well-being, and family members know you and your life well enough to offer details or incidents that can be included in your essay. On the other hand, the rewriting process necessarily involves criticism, which is sometimes hard to hear from someone very close to you.

A parent or close family member is a great choice for an editor if you can answer "yes" to the following questions. Is your parent or close relative a good writer or reader? Do you have a relationship where editing your essay won't create conflict? Are you able to constructively listen to criticism and suggestion from the parent?

One suggestion for defusing face-to-face discussions is to try working on the essay over email. Send your parent a draft, have them write you back some comments, and then you can pick which of their suggestions you want to use and which to discard.

Teachers or Tutors

A humanities teacher that you have a good relationship with is a great choice. I am purposefully saying humanities, and not just English, because teachers of Philosophy, History, Anthropology, and any other classes where you do a lot of writing, are all used to reviewing student work.

Moreover, any teacher or tutor that has been working with you for some time, knows you very well and can vet the essay to make sure it "sounds like you."

If your teacher or tutor has some experience with what college essays are supposed to be like, ask them to be your editor. If not, then ask whether they have time to proofread your final draft.

Guidance or College Counselor at Your School

The best thing about asking your counselor to edit your work is that this is their job. This means that they have a very good sense of what colleges are looking for in an application essay.

At the same time, school counselors tend to have relationships with admissions officers in many colleges, which again gives them insight into what works and which college is focused on what aspect of the application.

Unfortunately, in many schools the guidance counselor tends to be way overextended. If your ratio is 300 students to 1 college counselor, you're unlikely to get that person's undivided attention and focus. It is still useful to ask them for general advice about your potential topics, but don't expect them to be able to stay with your essay from first draft to final version.

Friends, Siblings, or Classmates

Although they most likely don't have much experience with what colleges are hoping to see, your peers are excellent sources for checking that your essay is you .

Friends and siblings are perfect for the read-aloud edit. Read your essay to them so they can listen for words and phrases that are stilted, pompous, or phrases that just don't sound like you.

You can even trade essays and give helpful advice on each other's work.

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If your editor hasn't worked with college admissions essays very much, no worries! Any astute and attentive reader can still greatly help with your process. But, as in all things, beginners do better with some preparation.

First, your editor should read our advice about how to write a college essay introduction , how to spot and fix a bad college essay , and get a sense of what other students have written by going through some admissions essays that worked .

Then, as they read your essay, they can work through the following series of questions that will help them to guide you.

Introduction Questions

  • Is the first sentence a killer opening line? Why or why not?
  • Does the introduction hook the reader? Does it have a colorful, detailed, and interesting narrative? Or does it propose a compelling or surprising idea?
  • Can you feel the author's voice in the introduction, or is the tone dry, dull, or overly formal? Show the places where the voice comes through.

Essay Body Questions

  • Does the essay have a through-line? Is it built around a central argument, thought, idea, or focus? Can you put this idea into your own words?
  • How is the essay organized? By logical progression? Chronologically? Do you feel order when you read it, or are there moments where you are confused or lose the thread of the essay?
  • Does the essay have both narratives about the author's life and explanations and insight into what these stories reveal about the author's character, personality, goals, or dreams? If not, which is missing?
  • Does the essay flow? Are there smooth transitions/clever links between paragraphs? Between the narrative and moments of insight?

Reader Response Questions

  • Does the writer's personality come through? Do we know what the speaker cares about? Do we get a sense of "who he or she is"?
  • Where did you feel most connected to the essay? Which parts of the essay gave you a "you are there" sensation by invoking your senses? What moments could you picture in your head well?
  • Where are the details and examples vague and not specific enough?
  • Did you get an "a-ha!" feeling anywhere in the essay? Is there a moment of insight that connected all the dots for you? Is there a good reveal or "twist" anywhere in the essay?
  • What are the strengths of this essay? What needs the most improvement?

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Should You Pay Money for Essay Editing?

One alternative to asking someone you know to help you with your college essay is the paid editor route. There are two different ways to pay for essay help: a private essay coach or a less personal editing service , like the many proliferating on the internet.

My advice is to think of these options as a last resort rather than your go-to first choice. I'll first go through the reasons why. Then, if you do decide to go with a paid editor, I'll help you decide between a coach and a service.

When to Consider a Paid Editor

In general, I think hiring someone to work on your essay makes a lot of sense if none of the people I discussed above are a possibility for you.

If you can't ask your parents. For example, if your parents aren't good writers, or if English isn't their first language. Or if you think getting your parents to help is going create unnecessary extra conflict in your relationship with them (applying to college is stressful as it is!)

If you can't ask your teacher or tutor. Maybe you don't have a trusted teacher or tutor that has time to look over your essay with focus. Or, for instance, your favorite humanities teacher has very limited experience with college essays and so won't know what admissions officers want to see.

If you can't ask your guidance counselor. This could be because your guidance counselor is way overwhelmed with other students.

If you can't share your essay with those who know you. It might be that your essay is on a very personal topic that you're unwilling to share with parents, teachers, or peers. Just make sure it doesn't fall into one of the bad-idea topics in our article on bad college essays .

If the cost isn't a consideration. Many of these services are quite expensive, and private coaches even more so. If you have finite resources, I'd say that hiring an SAT or ACT tutor (whether it's PrepScholar or someone else) is better way to spend your money . This is because there's no guarantee that a slightly better essay will sufficiently elevate the rest of your application, but a significantly higher SAT score will definitely raise your applicant profile much more.

Should You Hire an Essay Coach?

On the plus side, essay coaches have read dozens or even hundreds of college essays, so they have experience with the format. Also, because you'll be working closely with a specific person, it's more personal than sending your essay to a service, which will know even less about you.

But, on the minus side, you'll still be bouncing ideas off of someone who doesn't know that much about you . In general, if you can adequately get the help from someone you know, there is no advantage to paying someone to help you.

If you do decide to hire a coach, ask your school counselor, or older students that have used the service for recommendations. If you can't afford the coach's fees, ask whether they can work on a sliding scale —many do. And finally, beware those who guarantee admission to your school of choice—essay coaches don't have any special magic that can back up those promises.

Should You Send Your Essay to a Service?

On the plus side, essay editing services provide a similar product to essay coaches, and they cost significantly less . If you have some assurance that you'll be working with a good editor, the lack of face-to-face interaction won't prevent great results.

On the minus side, however, it can be difficult to gauge the quality of the service before working with them . If they are churning through many application essays without getting to know the students they are helping, you could end up with an over-edited essay that sounds just like everyone else's. In the worst case scenario, an unscrupulous service could send you back a plagiarized essay.

Getting recommendations from friends or a school counselor for reputable services is key to avoiding heavy-handed editing that writes essays for you or does too much to change your essay. Including a badly-edited essay like this in your application could cause problems if there are inconsistencies. For example, in interviews it might be clear you didn't write the essay, or the skill of the essay might not be reflected in your schoolwork and test scores.

Should You Buy an Essay Written by Someone Else?

Let me elaborate. There are super sketchy places on the internet where you can simply buy a pre-written essay. Don't do this!

For one thing, you'll be lying on an official, signed document. All college applications make you sign a statement saying something like this:

I certify that all information submitted in the admission process—including the application, the personal essay, any supplements, and any other supporting materials—is my own work, factually true, and honestly presented... I understand that I may be subject to a range of possible disciplinary actions, including admission revocation, expulsion, or revocation of course credit, grades, and degree, should the information I have certified be false. (From the Common Application )

For another thing, if your academic record doesn't match the essay's quality, the admissions officer will start thinking your whole application is riddled with lies.

Admission officers have full access to your writing portion of the SAT or ACT so that they can compare work that was done in proctored conditions with that done at home. They can tell if these were written by different people. Not only that, but there are now a number of search engines that faculty and admission officers can use to see if an essay contains strings of words that have appeared in other essays—you have no guarantee that the essay you bought wasn't also bought by 50 other students.

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  • You should get college essay help with both editing and proofreading
  • A good editor will ask questions about your idea, logic, and structure, and will point out places where clarity is needed
  • A good editor will absolutely not answer these questions, give you their own ideas, or write the essay or parts of the essay for you
  • A good proofreader will find typos and check your formatting
  • All of them agree that getting light editing and proofreading is necessary
  • Parents, teachers, guidance or college counselor, and peers or siblings
  • If you can't ask any of those, you can pay for college essay help, but watch out for services or coaches who over-edit you work
  • Don't buy a pre-written essay! Colleges can tell, and it'll make your whole application sound false.

Ready to start working on your essay? Check out our explanation of the point of the personal essay and the role it plays on your applications and then explore our step-by-step guide to writing a great college essay .

Using the Common Application for your college applications? We have an excellent guide to the Common App essay prompts and useful advice on how to pick the Common App prompt that's right for you . Wondering how other people tackled these prompts? Then work through our roundup of over 130 real college essay examples published by colleges .

Stressed about whether to take the SAT again before submitting your application? Let us help you decide how many times to take this test . If you choose to go for it, we have the ultimate guide to studying for the SAT to give you the ins and outs of the best ways to study.

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Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Pascale Bradley in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.

What’s Covered:

Introduction to college admission essays, make your college admission essays stand out, choose a compelling topic.

College admission essays comprise approximately 20% to 25% of the evaluation criteria for college applications. This is especially true when applying to top-tier institutions with large pools of applicants who are equally competitive with respect to their academic performance, standardized test scores, and extracurricular involvement. Most schools require applicants to submit a Common Application essay and their own school-specific supplemental short responses and essays. However, they also require applicants to respond to different types and quantities of topics, and you need to confirm which essays are required for each school. 

Essays are the most significant personal component of the application process. They serve an integral role in humanizing you and helping colleges understand who you are, how you came to be, what you value, and how you respond to different challenges and situations. This information is critical because it helps admissions officers determine what you can contribute to their respective school, which is important because you need to demonstrate why a college should want you to attend and not just why you want to go to that college. 

Essays will range from 100 to 700 words in length. Short responses may range between one or two words to several sentences. You may also have the opportunity to submit a multi-page document or a portfolio of your work for a particular program or for admission in general.

When it comes to writing college admission essays, most applicants feel pressured to write about something that others will perceive as exceptionally interesting and impressive, such as a national award or a niche hobby. Applicants may feel unsure and insecure about not being talented, accomplished, or interesting enough, and the events and experiences in their daily life may feel too mundane or clichéd to write about. These pressures and insecurities stem from applicants internalizing the incessant messaging that they need to be exceptional and unique in order to distinguish themselves from other applicants and be attractive to schools. 

Most applicants have not accomplished anything of regional, national, or international significance. Even for the few who have such accomplishments, the accolades in and of themselves are not sufficient to craft a compelling essay. 

What actually makes a compelling essay is not what you choose to write about but how you write about whichever topic you choose. The essay will stand out because of your voice, your perspective, and your way of experiencing the world. You will not be penalized for what you have not experienced or achieved, as admissions officers understand that not everyone has access to the same set of opportunities and that geographic location, socioeconomic status, family connections, and many other factors constrain and determine what you are able to do in high school. 

Once you divorce yourself from the misconception that your essay needs to be about something dramatic, life-altering, or incredibly exciting, you can start to home in on the content of your life that is worth writing about. Moments from and aspects of your everyday life—a book that was particularly meaningful to you, a relationship that you cherish, a memory of time spent with loved ones, a time when you were humiliated—are the seeds of great essays because they are the vehicles by which you can reveal something significant about who you are and how you think.

Your essay can be about anything you want, so long as it is appropriate for a general audience, satisfies the prompt to which you are responding, and shows the admissions officers something important about you that they could not find anywhere else in your application. Topics and content to avoid include any statements that could be construed as racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, xenophobic, or otherwise prejudiced against any particular group of people. You should also avoid the use of unsupported facts, obscene language, illicit activities, violence, or graphic subjects. 

If you are considering writing about something that could be considered controversial, you need to recognize and prepare for the reality that your reader may completely disagree with you and may finish reading your essay doubting your character. Although there is a slight chance that you could write a really strong essay about one of these topics, you run a great risk that is unnecessary and will likely not prove worthwhile. 

For more information about how to write strong college admission essays, review our comprehensive articles on “ How to Write the Common Application Essays ” and “ 19 Stellar Common App Essay Examples ” to get inspired.

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College essay is a chance to tell your story to a complete stranger. Why some colleges demand it to be included in the application? First of all, amount of people wanting to to be admitted is several times bigger than amount of places. Scores, grades, academic achievements, extracurricular activities are important. They are the primary factor to select the best candidates. That's why committee sets talented ones apart from others by reading their works.  

"How is going to read what I write ? My essay is useless thing" - consider several people. This where they are wrong. Admission officers study and compare every single work that they receive. What should be there to catch their attention with guarantee?

Personality and soul. You don't have to seem intelligent to impress readers. Just be yourself.

Subject that really matters to you. Honesty is a key to success.

Motivation. It shoul shine through the pages of your work.

Uniqueness. Do not try to sound like someone great. Show simplicity and your real thoughts.

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The best part of service is its globalization. You can sit in one state and get a help from best essay writing service located on the other side of the country. Surprisingly, you will find yourself released from stress immediately after assigning task to expert. They are ready to perform any kind of job depending on what you want. If your text " write my essay for me ", it would be crafted from a scratch. If you text "Edit my work", it would be reviewed and made according to requirements.  

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Elite College Admissions Have Turned Students Into Brands

An illustration of a doll in a box attired in a country-western outfit and surrounded by musical accessories and a laptop. The doll wears a distressed expression and is pushing against the front of the box, which is emblazoned with the words “Environmentally Conscious Musician” and “Awesome Applicant.” The backdrop is a range of pink with three twinkling lights surrounding the box.

By Sarah Bernstein

Ms. Bernstein is a playwright, a writing coach and an essayist in Brooklyn.

“I just can’t think of anything,” my student said.

After 10 years of teaching college essay writing, I was familiar with this reply. For some reason, when you’re asked to recount an important experience from your life, it is common to forget everything that has ever happened to you. It’s a long-form version of the anxiety that takes hold at a corporate retreat when you’re invited to say “one interesting thing about yourself,” and you suddenly believe that you are the most boring person in the entire world. Once during a version of this icebreaker, a man volunteered that he had only one kidney, and I remember feeling incredibly jealous of him.

I tried to jog this student’s memory. What about his love of music? Or his experience learning English? Or that time on a summer camping trip when he and his friends had nearly drowned? “I don’t know,” he said with a sigh. “That all seems kind of cliché.”

Applying to college has always been about standing out. When I teach college essay workshops and coach applicants one on one, I see my role as helping students to capture their voice and their way of processing the world, things that are, by definition, unique to each individual. Still, many of my students (and their parents) worry that as getting into college becomes increasingly competitive, this won’t be enough to set them apart.

Their anxiety is understandable. On Thursday, in a tradition known as “Ivy Day,” all eight Ivy League schools released their regular admission decisions. Top colleges often issue statements about how impressive (and competitive) their applicant pools were this cycle. The intention is to flatter accepted students and assuage rejected ones, but for those who have not yet applied to college, these statements reinforce the fear that there is an ever-expanding cohort of applicants with straight A’s and perfect SATs and harrowing camping trip stories all competing with one another for a vanishingly small number of spots.

This scarcity has led to a boom in the college consulting industry, now estimated to be a $2.9 billion business. In recent years, many of these advisers and companies have begun to promote the idea of personal branding — a way for teenagers to distinguish themselves by becoming as clear and memorable as a good tagline.

While this approach often leads to a strong application, students who brand themselves too early or too definitively risk missing out on the kind of exploration that will prepare them for adult life.

Like a corporate brand, the personal brand is meant to distill everything you stand for (honesty, integrity, high quality, low prices) into a cohesive identity that can be grasped at a glance. On its website, a college prep and advising company called Dallas Admissions explains the benefits of branding this way: “Each person is complex, yet admissions officers only have a small amount of time to spend learning about each prospective student. The smart student boils down key aspects of himself or herself into their personal ‘brand’ and sells that to the college admissions officer.”

Identifying the key aspects of yourself may seem like a lifelong project, but unfortunately, college applicants don’t have that kind of time. Online, there are dozens of lesson plans and seminars promising to walk students through the process of branding themselves in five to 10 easy steps. The majority begin with questions I would have found panic-inducing as a teenager, such as, “What is the story you want people to tell about you when you’re not in the room?”

Where I hoped others would describe me as “normal” or, in my wildest dreams, “cool,” today’s teenagers are expected to leave this exercise with labels like, Committed Athlete and Compassionate Leader or Environmentally Conscious Musician. Once students have a draft of their ideal self, they’re offered instructions for manifesting it (or at least, the appearance of it) in person and online. These range from common-sense tips (not posting illegal activity on social media) to more drastic recommendations (getting different friends).

It’s not just that these courses cut corners on self-discovery; it’s that they get the process backward. A personal brand is effective only if you can support it with action, so instead of finding their passion and values through experience, students are encouraged to select a passion as early as possible and then rack up the experience to substantiate it. Many college consultants suggest beginning to align your activities with your college ambitions by ninth grade, while the National Institute of Certified College Planners recommends students “talk with parents, guardians, and/or an academic adviser to create a clear plan for your education and career-related goals” in junior high.

The idea of a group of middle schoolers soberly mapping out their careers is both comical and depressing, but when I read student essays today, I can see that this advice is getting through. Over the past few years, I have been struck by how many high school seniors already have defined career goals as well as a C.V. of relevant extracurriculars to go with them. This widens the gap between wealthy students and those who lack the resources to secure a fancy research gig or start their own small business. (A shocking number of college applicants claim to have started a small business.) It also puts pressure on all students to define themselves at a moment when they are anxious to fit in and yet changing all the time.

In the world of branding, a word that appears again and again is “consistency.” If you are Charmin, that makes sense. People opening a roll of toilet paper do not want to be surprised. If you are a teenage human being, however, that is an unreasonable expectation. Changing one’s interests, opinions and presentation is a natural part of adolescence and an instructive one. I find that my students with scattershot résumés are often the most confident. They’re not afraid to push back against suggestions that ring false and will insist on revising their essay until it actually “feels like me.” On the other hand, many of my most accomplished students are so quick to accept feedback that I am wary of offering it, lest I become one more adult trying to shape them into an admission-worthy ideal.

I understand that for parents, prioritizing exploration can feel like a risky bet. Self-insight is hard to quantify and to communicate in a college application. When it comes to building a life, however, this kind of knowledge has more value than any accolade, and it cannot be generated through a brainstorming exercise in a six-step personal branding course online. To equip kids for the world, we need to provide them not just with opportunities for achievement, but with opportunities to fail, to learn, to wander and to change their minds.

In some ways, the college essay is a microcosm of modern adolescence. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either a forum for self-discovery or a high-stakes test you need to ace. I try to assure my students that it is the former. I tell them that it’s a chance to take stock of everything you’ve experienced and learned over the past 18 years and everything you have to offer as a result.

That can be a profound process. But to embark on it, students have to believe that colleges really want to see the person behind the brand. And they have to have the chance to know who that person is.

Sarah Bernstein is a playwright, a writing coach and an essayist.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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5 Things to Remember About your College Essay

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Before sending file to college admission committee you should proofread the work. It would help to find mistakes and correct them. Try to look at the work with the easy of another person. What do you like in this essay? What could have been better? Ask yourself questions to decide whether this idea or a thought is necessary here. That will add more chances!

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Should college essays touch on race? Some feel affirmative action ruling leaves no choice

When the supreme court ended affirmative action in higher education, it left the college essay as one of few places where race can play a role in admissions..

Hillary Amofa listens to others member of the Lincoln Park High School step team after...

By The Associated Press

5:20 AM on Mar 28, 2024 CDT

CHICAGO — When she started writing her college essay, Hillary Amofa told the story she thought admissions offices wanted to hear. About being the daughter of immigrants from Ghana and growing up in a small apartment in Chicago. About hardship and struggle.

Then she deleted it all.

“I would just find myself kind of trauma-dumping,” said the 18-year-old senior at Lincoln Park High School in Chicago. “And I’m just like, this doesn’t really say anything about me as a person.”

When the Supreme Court ended affirmative action in higher education, it left the college essay as one of few places where race can play a role in admissions decisions. For many students of color, instantly more was riding on the already high-stakes writing assignment. Some say they felt pressure to exploit their hardships as they competed for a spot on campus.

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Related: Gov. Abbott issues executive order fighting antisemitism at Texas colleges

Amofa was just starting to think about her essay when the court issued its decision, and it left her with a wave of questions. Could she still write about her race? Could she be penalized for it? She wanted to tell colleges about her heritage but she didn’t want to be defined by it.

In English class, Amofa and her classmates read sample essays that all seemed to focus on some trauma or hardship. It left her with the impression she had to write about her life’s hardest moments to show how far she’d come. But she and some of her classmates wondered if their lives had been hard enough to catch the attention of admissions offices.

“For a lot of students, there’s a feeling of, like, having to go through something so horrible to feel worthy of going to school, which is kind of sad,” said Amofa, the daughter of a hospital technician and an Uber driver.

Hillary Amofa (second from left), practices with members of the Lincoln Park High School...

This year’s senior class is the first in decades to navigate college admissions without affirmative action. The Supreme Court upheld the practice in decisions going back to the 1970s, but this court’s conservative supermajority found it is unconstitutional for colleges to give students extra weight because of their race alone.

Still, the decision left room for race to play an indirect role: Chief Justice John Roberts wrote universities can still consider how an applicant’s life was shaped by their race, “so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability.”

“A benefit to a student who overcame racial discrimination, for example, must be tied to that student’s courage and determination,” he wrote.

Scores of colleges responded with new essay prompts asking about students’ backgrounds. Brown University asked applicants how “an aspect of your growing up has inspired or challenged you.” Rice University asked students how their perspectives were shaped by their “background, experiences, upbringing, and/or racial identity.”

Do schools ‘expect a sob story’?

When Darrian Merritt started writing his essay, he knew the stakes were higher than ever because of the court’s decision. His first instinct was to write about events that led to him going to live with his grandmother as a child.

Those were painful memories, but he thought they might play well at schools like Yale, Stanford and Vanderbilt.

“I feel like the admissions committee might expect a sob story or a tragic story,” said Merritt, a senior in Cleveland. “And if you don’t provide that, then maybe they’re not going to feel like you went through enough to deserve having a spot at the university. I wrestled with that a lot.”

Related: Texas colleges risk millions if they break DEI ban, lawmaker says

He wrote drafts focusing on his childhood, but it never amounted to more than a collection of memories. Eventually he abandoned the idea and aimed for an essay that would stand out for its positivity.

Merritt wrote about a summer camp where he started to feel more comfortable in his own skin. He described embracing his personality and defying his tendency to please others. The essay had humor — it centered on a water gun fight where he had victory in sight but, in a comedic twist, slipped and fell. But the essay also reflects on his feelings of not being “Black enough” and getting made fun of for listening to “white people music.”

“I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to write this for me, and we’re just going to see how it goes,’” he said. “It just felt real, and it felt like an honest story.”

The essay describes a breakthrough as he learned “to take ownership of myself and my future by sharing my true personality with the people I encounter. ... I realized that the first chapter of my own story had just been written.”

Ruling prompts pivots on essay topics

Like many students, Max Decker of Portland, Ore., had drafted a college essay on one topic, only to change direction after the Supreme Court ruling in June.

Decker initially wrote about his love for video games. In a childhood surrounded by constant change, navigating his parents’ divorce, the games he took from place to place on his Nintendo DS were a source of comfort.

But the essay he submitted to colleges focused on the community he found through Word is Bond, a leadership group for young Black men in Portland.

Max Decker, a senior at Lincoln High School in Portland, Ore., sits Wednesday, March 20,...

As the only biracial, Jewish kid with divorced parents in a predominantly white, Christian community, Decker wrote he constantly felt like the odd one out. On a trip with Word is Bond to Capitol Hill, he and friends who looked just like him shook hands with lawmakers. The experience, he wrote, changed how he saw himself.

“It’s because I’m different that I provide something precious to the world, not the other way around,” he wrote.

As a first-generation college student, Decker thought about the subtle ways his peers seemed to know more about navigating the admissions process. They made sure to get into advanced classes at the start of high school, and they knew how to secure glowing letters of recommendation.

If writing about race would give him a slight edge and show admissions officers a fuller picture of his achievements, he wanted to take that small advantage.

His first memory about race, Decker said, was when he went to get a haircut in elementary school and the barber made rude comments about his curly hair. Until recently, the insecurity that moment created led him to keep his hair buzzed short.

Related: Dallas approves more than $30 million in contracts to improve sidewalks citywide

Through Word is Bond, Decker said he found a space to explore his identity as a Black man. It was one of the first times he was surrounded by Black peers and saw Black role models. It filled him with a sense of pride in his identity. No more buzzcut.

The pressure to write about race involved a tradeoff with other important things in his life, Decker said. That included his passion for journalism, like the piece he wrote on efforts to revive a once-thriving Black neighborhood in Portland. In the end, he squeezed in 100 characters about his journalism under the application’s activities section.

“My final essay, it felt true to myself. But the difference between that and my other essay was the fact that it wasn’t the truth that I necessarily wanted to share,” said Decker, whose top college choice is Tulane, in New Orleans, because of the region’s diversity. “It felt like I just had to limit the truth I was sharing to what I feel like the world is expecting of me.”

Spelling out the impact of race

Before the Supreme Court ruling, it seemed a given to Imani Laird that colleges would consider the ways that race had touched her life. But now, she felt like she had to spell it out.

As she started her essay, she reflected on how she had faced bias or felt overlooked as a Black student in predominantly white spaces.

There was the year in math class when the teacher kept calling her by the name of another Black student. There were the comments that she’d have an easier time getting into college because she was Black.

Related: Federal appeals court questions legality of Texas immigration law

“I didn’t have it easier because of my race,” said Laird, a senior at Newton South High School in the Boston suburbs who was accepted at Wellesley and Howard University, and is waiting to hear from several Ivy League colleges. “I had stuff I had to overcome.”

In her final essays, she wrote about her grandfather, who served in the military but was denied access to GI Bill benefits because of his race.

She described how discrimination fueled her ambition to excel and pursue a career in public policy.

“So, I never settled for mediocrity,” she wrote. “Regardless of the subject, my goal in class was not just to participate but to excel. Beyond academics, I wanted to excel while remembering what started this motivation in the first place.”

Will schools lose racial diversity?

Amofa used to think affirmative action was only a factor at schools like Harvard and Yale. After the court’s ruling, she was surprised to find that race was taken into account even at some public universities she was applying to.

Now, without affirmative action, she wondered if mostly white schools will become even whiter.

It’s been on her mind as she chooses between Indiana University and the University of Dayton, both of which have relatively few Black students. When she was one of the only Black students in her grade school, she could fall back on her family and Ghanaian friends at church. At college, she worries about loneliness.

“That’s what I’m nervous about,” she said. “Going and just feeling so isolated, even though I’m constantly around people.”

Hillary Amofa is shown at Lincoln Park High School in Chicago on Friday, March 8, 2024.

The first drafts of her essay focused on growing up in a low-income family, sharing a bedroom with her brother and grandmother. But it didn’t tell colleges about who she is now, she said.

Her final essay tells how she came to embrace her natural hair. She wrote about going to a mostly white grade school where classmates made jokes about her afro. When her grandmother sent her back with braids or cornrows, they made fun of those too.

Over time, she ignored their insults and found beauty in the styles worn by women in her life. She now runs a business doing braids and other hairstyles in her neighborhood.

“I stopped seeing myself through the lens of the European traditional beauty standards and started seeing myself through the lens that I created,” Amofa wrote.

“Criticism will persist, but it loses its power when you know there’s a crown on your head!”

By Collin Binkley, Annie Ma and Noreen Nasir of The Associated Press

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

Mayor Eric Johnson still pushing dream of a Dallas-based NFL team

Uta students protest dei ban, immigration law, free speech restrictions, rashee rice meets with dallas police, takes ‘full responsibility’ for his part in crash, texas rangers’ latest win shows nathan eovaldi, his splitter still living in rays’ heads, 3 dallas restaurants and chefs could still win james beard awards in 2024.

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COMMENTS

  1. 27 Outstanding College Essay Examples From Top Universities 2024

    This college essay tip is by Abigail McFee, Admissions Counselor for Tufts University and Tufts '17 graduate. 2. Write like a journalist. "Don't bury the lede!" The first few sentences must capture the reader's attention, provide a gist of the story, and give a sense of where the essay is heading.

  2. 177 College Essay Examples for 11 Schools + Expert Analysis

    Technique #1: humor. Notice Renner's gentle and relaxed humor that lightly mocks their younger self's grand ambitions (this is different from the more sarcastic kind of humor used by Stephen in the first essay—you could never mistake one writer for the other). My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver.

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    Sample College Essay 2 with Feedback. This content is licensed by Khan Academy and is available for free at www.khanacademy.org. College essays are an important part of your college application and give you the chance to show colleges and universities your personality. This guide will give you tips on how to write an effective college essay.

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    Follow these tips to write an impactful essay that can work in your favor. 1. Start Early. Few people write well under pressure. Try to complete your first draft a few weeks before you have to turn it in. Many advisers recommend starting as early as the summer before your senior year in high school.

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    While timelines will differ depending on the student, plan on spending at least 1-3 weeks brainstorming and writing the first draft of your college admissions essay, and at least 2-4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Don't forget to save enough time for breaks between each writing and editing stage.

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    When writing college essays, consider the point you want to make and develop a fleshed-out response that fits the prompt. Avoid force-fitting prewritten pieces. Approach every personal essay prompt as if it's your first. 4. Stick to Your Style. Writing college essays isn't about using flowery or verbose prose.

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    Good example. I wiped the sweat from my head and tried to catch my breath. I was nearly there—just one more back tuck and a strong dismount and I'd have nailed a perfect routine. Some students choose to write more broadly about themselves and use some sort of object or metaphor as the focus.

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    Don't summarize. Avoid explicitly stating the point of your essay. It's far less effective when you spell it out for someone. Delete every single "That's when I realized," "I learned," and "The most important lesson was...". It's unnecessary, unconvincing, and takes the reader out of the moment.

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    Again, we'd recommend sticking with standard fonts and sizes—Times New Roman, 12-point is a standard workhorse. You can probably go with 1.5 or double spacing. Standard margins. Basically, show them you're ready to write in college by using the formatting you'll normally use in college.

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    In addition to being an opportunity to showcase one's writing abilities and personal background, the essay can also play a crucial role in determining admission to a college or university.. A well-written essay can set an applicant apart from the competition and help demonstrate that they have the necessary skills and qualities to succeed in their academic program.

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    Make Your College Admission Essays Stand Out When it comes to writing college admission essays, most applicants feel pressured to write about something that others will perceive as exceptionally interesting and impressive, such as a national award or a niche hobby. Applicants may feel unsure and insecure about not being talented, accomplished ...

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    6. Stick to a clear essay plan. Creativity is an aspect very much appreciated in writing, but don't assume that a creative essay is not also an organized one. Obviously, you don't want to write a bunch of words without meaning, so make sure you write about just one subject at a time.

  19. 14 College Essay Examples From Top-25 Universities (2023-2024)

    College admissions officers read hundreds of essays from hopeful applicants with each one thinking their personal experiences and reasons for applying to a particular school are unique. This contributes to the difficulty in standing out in your essays since almost anything you write about will likely have been encountered by your reader before.

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  26. University Of Washington Appeal Letter For College

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